Embrace the chaos of writing

4 minute read
Author: SarahWHQ

Awight young writer-sausage

How goes it at the writing coalface today? It’s nearly half term here which means WHQ HQ is about to get very very noisy.

Here’s a glimpse behind the scenes: screaming (not me), crying (sometimes me), demands for snacks and attention from both human and feline creatures, incessant talking (not me), overly loud YouTubers so horrific they’re probably legit prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Mess, everywhere. So so much mess. Crap and art and books piled up on every available surface. Noise. Chaos. A complete lack of personal space. More mess. More demands. All those kinds of things.

Regardless, we plough on. Because if words don’t happen then life doesn’t happen. Because words are everything. So many words. All the words all the time. In WhatsApp. In email. In social media. In notebooks. In Word. In Scrivener. In your head. In your stories. Flowing along the invisible but so very real connections between you and all the other people who keep you alive and breathing and human.

And we plough on because life is messy. There is never a perfect time to write or think or do or be. It’s now, or it’s not now. And y’know what? Now is all we have. Now is all there ever is.

We plough on because stories are messy.

Because words don’t wholly represent the sensations they try to explain.

We edge around the truth.

We hone in on the sweet spot we’re always trying to reach.

We want to find it so. goddamn. badly.

We yearn for perfection.

But let’s be honest here, writer-buddy. Perfection is just high falutin’ procrastination. It’s just avoiding doing the work, but with a top hat and monocle. With dinner at the Ritz. A cane, perhaps. It’s not avoiding the work by making lowly tea and biscuits, it’s avoiding the work because we’re pretty good but we’re not Margaret Atwood, or Ursula K Le Guin, or Mary Oliver, so there’s no point even starting, really. It’s knowing that if we did do it, it would be world-shatteringly, life-changingly awesome, and we’re not quite ready for that, sooooo…. we just don’t.


Let. That. Shit. Go.

Perfection isn’t a thing, in stories, or in life. What we get instead is a messy approximation that’s sometimes pretty close, or sometimes not even near but still performs the same function, or sometimes wildly different and surprises us all with its right-ness.

Sometimes, when we’re writing, we become fixated on this idea that it has to be perfect. That because we’re writing on a screen with its lovely neat fonts and smart lines that it has to be publish-ready-polished. Or because we’re writing in our beautiful 170gsm leather-bound notebook it has to be deep and profound in case 80 years from now our diaries are made public. Or just because we want it to be right so very badly.

But it doesn’t have to be anything of the sort. It just has to… be.

Your first draft can be a ring binder full of scraps of scrawled, crumpled notepaper and magazine cutouts.

Your second draft can be the same, with post-it notes stuck all over it.

Your third draft can be a few sheets of rough prose slotted in.

Your eighteenth draft might finally include some printed chapters.

Your thirty-seventh draft might be printed out emails and text messages from when you tried to explain it all to your friend.

Your hundredth draft might start looking like a manuscript.

Any way you do it, it’s F I N E.

As long as the words keep coming, however they need to come.

Embrace the chaos.

Make a mess.

Don’t tidy up.

Watch what emerges.

Go write.

Sarah & Team WHQ

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